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Sanremo a certainty for Sagan, grand tour starts to be decided

Sagan's highly anticipated Giro debut might be in question as a new calendar will put the Tour ahead of the Italian race.

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Peter Sagan has come oh-so-close to victory at Milano-Sanremo more times than most, but the Slovak star isn’t giving up hopes on a win on the Via Roma just yet.

Sagan has ticked off many of the early season’s flagship races in his prolific career, netting wins at Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix, and three times at Gent-Wevelgem. However, Milano-Sanremo has proven elusive. Six top-sixes in eight seasons, including a photo finish defeat by Michal Kwiatkowski in 2017, have so far left Sagan within a breath of victory at La Classicissima.

Like the rest of the peloton, the triple world champion is eagerly waiting on the UCI’s revised calendar for 2020, due to be revealed Tuesday. Although the schedule of racing for the truncated calendar is surrounded by questions, Sagan is certain he will be starting the Italian monument, whenever it may take place.

“Only when I have certainty of the dates of the grand tours will I be able to make a program and fix some results to hit,” Sagan said Friday. “One [race] will certainly be Sanremo, which I have never won.”

Before coronavirus tore the early season to shreds, Sagan had been hoping to start his first-ever Giro d’Italia this year, following up with the Tour de France a few months later. With the Tour now due to start before the Giro, the Italian race may again have to wait if Sagan plans to continue his dominance over the Tour’s green jersey, which he has now won a record seven times.

However the season looks when the schedule is finalized, Sagan hopes he has time to get some training miles in his legs. The 30-year-old is one of the members of the peloton that has been slow to adapt to a life of indoor training as he waits out lockdown at home in Monaco, and has already discussed his aversion to online racing.

While Sagan has been cooped up indoors for two months, those living in Belgium, the UK and elsewhere have been free to train on the roads. Sagan is hopeful that he has time to play catch-up.

“I hope that at the start we will all have the same time to train and be ready,” Sagan told Corriere this week. “My only certainties are that from May 3, I will be able to leave the house, and May 11 from the Principality.”

Although Sagan may be concerned about a lack of time training on the open roads this spring, he finds solace in that he will have the legs to last out a season that could stretch through November.

When asked if he would be happy to race until Christmas, Sagan said, “It’s fine with me. I’m getting enough rest!” He went on to describe his current form as “Like in November….I was ready for the Classics when everything stopped. But on the other hand, it wouldn’t make sense to be in shape now, so far from hypothetical races.”

It doesn’t get much closer than Sagan’s Sanremo second-place in 2017. Photo: Getty / Tim De Waele

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team is one of the few WorldTour outfits that has kept its riders on full pay through the racing stop. The team received further assurance Friday from joint backer Bora, a German cooking systems business.

“We want to set an example,” said Willi Bruckbauer, Bora CEO. “Even at a time like this, we think that we should still honor our agreement. We will stay fully committed to the team.

“We’ve had outstanding media value over the last few years from our sponsorship activities, boosting Bora’s commercial success,” Bruckbauer said. “That is why we are staying the team’s reliable partner in these challenging circumstances and helping the riders to prepare as best as possible for the new, shorter race calendar.”

Sagan has contributed his quirky character to the Bora marketing push in recent years, appearing in the brand’s YouTube videos and Instagram feeds.

Both rider and backer will be hoping to see the Bora-Hansgrohe logo top step of the Sanremo podium this season.